Derek McInnes hailed two “brilliant” goals which saw Kilmarnock move into fourth place in the cinch Premiership with a 2-1 win over St Johnstone at Rugby Park.
Killie sprang out of the traps despite swirling wind and rain and 18-year-old midfielder David Watson hammered in a long-distance drive in the sixth minute before veteran striker Marley Watkins added a second in the 17th minute to have the home side in command.
Kilmarnock should have added to their lead in the first half before Craig Levein’s side regrouped and Saints substitute Nicky Clark, back fit again, reduced the deficit on the hour mark.
But Killie held on as they stretched their unbeaten run to four games and moved a point ahead of St Mirren, whom they play in Paisley on Wednesday.
Boss McInnes said: “I thought we were terrific in that opening 30 minutes or so. We were aware of the conditions in the warm-up with the wind swirling, but we asked the players to take real responsibility to try and get the ball down and play around St Johnstone’s shape.
“We wanted to make sure we played around that, get good service from the wider areas and try to play forward from there either down the sides of their centre-halves or into our strikers’ feet. I thought we did all that really well.
“Ultimately, you still need big moments and two brilliant goals from our point of view.
“Top-class from Watson. He sorts his feet out well. Danny (Armstrong) takes a great first touch to step in the pitch and plays a little reverse ball into Davie.
“It’s in a tight area, but he sorts his feet out and a brilliant strike and Marley’s goal was as good a striker’s goal as you’ll see.
“I think he toe-pokes it in. It’s an absolutely brilliant finish, so two brilliant goals and we passed up two or three real opportunities after that and it was a real dominant performance.
“But it’s the Premiership. St Johnstone changed their shape towards the end of the first half, had a couple of moments.
“We didn’t have the same dominance and spoke at half-time about the need to go and score the next goal.
“I’m disappointed and angry with the goal we lost from the set-play. I think it’s all a bit too easy and too simplistic.
“I’m not convinced it was a foul, but they are able to put the ball in the box and we have to be stronger. Our line was good in terms of where we should be, we just have to stop Nicky Clark getting through it.
“Clark is good in the air, he’ll thrive off good service and that’s exactly what happened.”
Levein was “mystified” by his side’s start to the game.
The former Scotland boss said: “That was a strange game. I don’t know what happened.
“We’ve not started any games since I’ve been here in that manner.
“I also have to say as much as we were off it, Killie started really well.
“We were two down and they missed a chance to go to three before we even turned up.
“Then when we turned up I was happy. I thought we ended the first half well and then I thought we had more dominance and I was pleased with the performance.
“We snookered ourselves by giving away two goals early on.
“I was just trying to work out what the hell had happened. It’s much easier looking back and I’ll pore over the footage.
“I don’t know if going two behind actually took the pressure off and we then thought maybe we’ll start playing football now.
“Once we started doing that it was harder for Killie to get dominance and their chances started to dry up.”